Journ Student Jess

Student journalist looking for feedback on assignments and journalism in general

Best of the blogs: A focus on government and international media

leave a comment »

Government is a driving force in every single one of our lives, despite lethargic beliefs that “my vote doesn’t count” or “I don’t have the power to change anything.” Based on my own interest in how governments differ around the world, I chose two vastly different blogs that focus on transparency in informing citizens of what is going on in the political world.

GovTrack.us

One blog, called GovTrack.us, was created by Civil Impulse, LLC in 2004. Several people write blogs for the site, which aims to “promote civic engagement through novel uses of technology.” Bloggers provide details on how to use their website, updates on information added as well as links to newly introduced legislature and when they are scheduled to go before Congress.

The blog post introducing the 113th Congress informed readers that the Members of Congress tab had been updated, as well as new legislature, but committee assignments had not yet been completed. Author Josh Tauberer responded in a timely manner to a comment asking about centralized lists appearing as early reports. I think he could have provided more information about when the reports would be available and comment on the accuracy of early reports, but his replies were appropriate.

The GovTrack.us blog followed some principles of good blogging by only providing new information, not outdated facts. Author Josh Tauberer provided relevant information about the vice president candidates during the election, which is when those facts are most appreciated. The blog stayed focused on government topics and did not display a bias towards any particular political party.

I thought this blog was informative but a bit boring. It was effective at providing the best information for its users and had a strong emphasis on providing analysis of different bills, giving context for blog posts and giving immediate replies to reader comments. I disliked this blog because it did not provide visual stimulation and was very dry; some of the blog posts would have been more eye-catching with a large photo to instantly convey what they are about. Weaknesses of the GovTrack.us blog include a lack of input from legislative officials, text-heavy posts and a small audience whose involvement in the site is abysmal.

Syria Deeply

The second blog I checked out was SyriaDeeply, an “independent daily media project led by journalists and technologists, exploring a new model of storytelling around a global crisis.” I chose to follow this blog because it brings together many authors in order to give the best picture of a country that has been closed off from journalists for years due to civil war and political unrest.

Many people and organizations have contributed to this blog, including Syrian journalists, The New York Times, Save the Children, MercyCorps and the United Nations Refugee Agency. The reports and interviews posted on the blogs focus on the country of Syria, giving a voice to those who have had to leave their home and others who have chosen to stay and witness first-hand the animosity between rebel groups and the armies of President al-Assad.

Bloggers did not respond to comments left on forums, though there are three forums available for those who wish to share their opinions. I think people choose not to comment because they may feel in danger if they are from the country and do not wish to risk retaliation for their views. By providing outlets for readers, Syria Deeply did what it could to allow others to communicate about the blog.

Syria Deeply follows the principles of good blogging by providing interactive and visual features for viewers, like a timeline of events and photo galleries. The main page of the blog shows a map, illustrating the number of fatalities among the regions of Syria, the number of refugees fleeing the area and links to videos recorded in that area. Although news from the country cannot be totally trusted, the blog uses credible sources and does not post rumored or biased accounts, which I found encouraging.

I liked the Syria Deeply blog because it was organized well and provided many different features to learn about the conflict that is happening in the country right now. One strength of the blog was a tool allowing you to flip easily to the previous or next entries; another was the quality of the articles posted. Each piece was wonderfully written, provided intimate detail and drew the reader into what the subject was feeling at the time. One thing I disliked about the blog is that it somewhat buried a video that explains the website and its features. I think it should have been placed higher up on the website and had a special heading so viewers understood what it is. Weaknesses of the blog include a lack of comments, a lack of explanation about when the blog started and why it was created, as well as difficulty finding the blog part of the site, which is confusingly labeled “The Forum.” While the blog has a well organized navigational plan, it could be easier for viewers to follow. According to  The Multi-Media Journalist, by Jennifer George-Palilonis, a navigational plan is important to keep readers engaged in the website and make them feel satisfied with what they have just viewed (67.)

My outlook

While both blogs provided great information on their subjects, I think they could have done things a bit differently. GovTrack.us should provide more images and link to outside sources in order to seem more credible. If I was working on the Syria Deeply blog, I would re-organize the front page and create a simpler interface so first-time users are not so confused about where to find the information they are looking for.

Did you check out these blogs? What did you think about the sites in particular, or my analysis of each one? Comment below and share your perspectives with me, JournStudentJess. Thanks for reading!

Advertisements

Written by hayne2jr

February 1, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: